JACKSON -- After Gov. Haley Barbour gave his opening remarks and before taking questions at a Wednesday news conference, he looked at me and said, "congratulations, Bobby."
"For what," I asked. The governor said he understood I had accepted a new job.
"Not true," I told him.
He apologized, and did so again after the news conference where he explained he had heard the information from three sources. It was obvious to me the governor was only repeating what he believed to be true and had no intent of making my life difficult.
After all, the rumor that I had accepted the post of state House information officer spread like wildfire through the ornate halls of the Capitol.
It is true that Mac Gordon, the long-time House information officer and a good friend, is retiring -- in October.
The rumor that I had accepted the post as public relations officer for the entire 122-member House was spread by people with no concept of simple journalistic precepts of fact-checking.
I have no intention of going anywhere. Essentially, I have worked for the Daily Journal my entire adult life. Through the years people have approached me about possible job changes. I tell them I like what I do and work for and with a great group of people.
JACKSON -- Gov. Haley Barbour recently made some opening comments at a forum that brought together business and government leaders from Changzhou, China, with Mississippi business leaders and economic developers.
The forum, sponsored by the city of Changzhou and the U.S.-China Chamber of Commerce, was designed to try to develop trade and business ties.
It is not unusual for a politician to attend such an event and make a speech. Politicians like to do that. But Barbour stayed for the entire program.
And he wasn't there to shake hands and politick. He was there to listen and learn. At one point, he got up from the head table and went out in the audience where he could get a better view of the presentations. He did take a break to go to the food table where he stood for a few minutes sampling the offerings, but even then he was paying attention to the speakers.
Barbour has a healthy curiosity -- a real quest for knowledge. He can assimilate a lot of information and communicate it to the public in an easy-to-understand manner.
That is his great strength as a politician.
When Barbour first ran for governor in 2003, I was amazed at his depth of understanding of state government. Here was this guy who spent the bulk of his time working in Washington, but he had a knowledge of state government that would rival most any politician who was involved in the complexities of state government on a daily basis.
JACKSON -- Haley Barbour, who has spent much of his tenure as governor blocking efforts to increase Mississippi's cigarette tax, is expected to sign the 50-cent-per-pack increase approved last week by the Legislature.
But now, surprise, surprise, the Republican governor says that is not enough. He wants additional taxes on tobacco products.
Barbour has been advocating this session an additional tax on the companies that did not participate in the settlement of a lawsuit the state filed against some tobacco companies in the 1990s. These smaller companies can sell cigarettes cheaper, Barbour says, because they are not making annual payments to the state as part of the lawsuit settlement.
He also wants smokeless tobacco to be taxed by weight instead of a percentage of its price.
In both instances, Barbour says it is a matter of tax fairness. And both proposals will provided additional revenue to the state.
In both cases, Barbour has points. As a matter of fact, in the past, the House Democratic leadership has tried to increase the tax on the smaller, non-participating cigarette companies and that effort was blocked by Barbour's Republican allies in the Legislature.
Now Barbour is for it, but the House Democratic leadership is against it.
It doesn't help Barbour's cause that the big tobacco companies favor both of his proposals and that they would be helped financially if the governor's proposals passed.
It is not forgotten that Barbour for years lobbied for big tobacco companies and that the Washington, D.C., lobbying firms he still receives payments from continues to lobby for big tobacco.
In essence, some legislators believe the governor is for the additional taxes only to help big tobacco companies.
But another alternative may be that Barbour has come to the conclusion the additional tobacco taxes are good public policy whether big tobacco is for them or not.